The first thing Timi noticed when she entered Deji’s ward in the Intensive Care Unit, the next morning, was that her husband’s bed was empty.
He must have been taken out for tests, she thought. But almost immediately, she noticed that none of the machines that had surrounded Deji since his accident were by his bed any longer. Timi broke out in a cold sweat and covered her mouth with her right hand.
This can’t be happening, she thought, moving slowly to the bed. She ran her hand along the length of the neatly made bed, as the tears started to fall. Sitting on the bed, she wrapped both arms around her body and swayed from side to side. I never said good bye. Now, I can’t anymore, she thought, starting to sob brokenly.
Nurse Eniola came into the ward then. She had gone to ease herself and hadn’t seen Timi come in. Hurrying to the crying woman, she asked, “Madam, what is the matter?”
Looking into Eniola’s face, Timi sobbed, “Can you tell me why my husband had to die this young? He was only thirty-nine, you know.”
“Die?” the nurse asked, with some confusion. As understanding dawned, she said, “Oh! You’re wrong, madam. Your husband is not dead. About three am today, the doctors observed that the swelling in Mr. Deji’s brain has gone down so he was taken off the ventilator. When he remained stable, by this morning, he was moved out of the ICU. His bed is empty because he’s in a private room now.”
Timi collapsed on the bed in relief and cried harder. Eniola drew her up and gently said, “Come, let me take you to your husband.”
The relief Timi felt when she saw her husband was immense. He was still looking all bruised and banged-up but the slow rise and fall of his chest let her know that he was breathing on his own. Leaving her in the room, Eniola hurried away to get the consultant in charge of Deji’s case. Dr. Adegbite assured Timi that Deji would, most likely, wake up that day as soon as the sedation wore off.
Timi had left the house in a hurry and had not eaten breakfast. After an hour of sitting by Deji’s beside while waiting for him to wake up, she couldn’t ignore the hunger pangs any longer. So, leaving Deji’s room, she went in search of food at the hospital cafeteria.
She saw Lola from her husband’s unit at work making inquiries at the nurses’ station. “Good morning, Lola,” Timi said with a smile.
Turning in Timi’s direction, Lola said, “Oh! Good morning, dear.” Taking long strides, Lola closed the distance between both women and hugged Timi. “I was just asking about Deji. I was out of town all weekend and came here immediately I dropped my luggage off at home. How is he? The nurses wouldn’t give me any information.”
As they continued walking towards the cafeteria, Timi said, “My sister, I thank God o! Deji’s condition had been critical since the accident. However, by the time I came here this morning, I was informed that he was doing much better. I had a scary moment for a while, though, when I thought that he had died.”
Lola halted in her tracks then, to look at Timi. When Lola raised her eyebrows, Timi explained, “My sister, I found his bed empty when I got her this morning and I just assumed the worst. I bawled like a baby till a nurse reassured me that he had been moved to a private room as a result of the significant improvements they had observed in him.”
“Ah, that’s good news indeed. The news I got from some of our colleagues was that it wasn’t yet certain if he’ll recover from his injuries. Thank God o!”
“That had been my fear too because the doctors had informed me of what the best and worst case scenarios could be. Also, I think that, thanks to the internet, I know more about his injuries now than I ever would have. So, I was aware of all that could go wrong. Of course, he sustained a lot of injuries so he’s not completely out of the woods yet but, the doctors say that he’s made very good progress. I’m anxiously waiting for him to wake up.”
They continued on their way and by the time they got to the cafeteria, Lola wanted to have some breakfast as well so both of them placed their orders at the food counter. While they waited for their food to be served at their table, the women chatted.
“I’m sure you must have heard about Nana,” Timi said. “I heard both of you had been close friends.”
“The news of her passing came as a huge shock to me. I don’t even know what to tell her parents when I see them later today,” Lola said quietly. “She had been so excited about her trip to Abuja. I didn’t know…”
“Abuja?” Timi asked, cutting her off.
“Yes. She had been on her way to Abuja to see her boyfriend. Initially, she hadn’t been enthusiastic about making that trip but, she had later changed her mind.”
“Her boyfriend?” Timi had asked, even more confused. “I thought…” When she broke off, Lola looked at her carefully, and correctly interpreted the look on her face. Timi’s brow was knitted into frown.
“Oh, my. You thought that she had been dating your husband. You must have thought that was the reason they had been together at the time of the accident.”
When Timi didn’t answer, Lola said, “Listen, Nana had been dating this guy in Abuja for about five months. Because of the geographical distance and work commitments, they hadn’t seen each other for over a month. However, she realized a few weeks ago that she had got pregnant for him. She decided to keep the baby but had been afraid of what his reaction to that would be. Both of us were friends with your husband so we knew him to be a great listener; everyone knows he is. She told Deji about her pregnancy and sought his opinion on the matter of letting her boyfriend know about it.”
One of the waiters brought their food so Lola paused for a while till he left.
“Deji encouraged her to let her boyfriend know about the pregnancy since she was sure that it was his,” she continued, taking a sip of water. “He had been of the opinion that the guy might want to be involved in her life or at least, in the child’s. So, Nana had taken permission to be off from work on Friday so that she could go to Abuja. That’s why they had been heading to the airport together.”
The feeling of relief Timi felt was over-whelming. It was quickly followed by a strong sense of shame. “Why was it so easy for me to believe that Deji had been cheating on me? I had merely been toying with that idea but immediately Nana’s mother insinuated that Deji was somehow responsible for her late daughter’s pregnancy, I was quick to accept that. What kind of a woman does that make me? I’ve never suspected my husband of adultery before so why did I, this time?”
Surprised at what Timi had said about Nana’s mother, Lola asked, “Nana’s mother thinks they were having an affair too?”
Timi told her about the incident that had occurred immediately after Nana demise. “I’m so ashamed of myself for haven thought ill of Deji. I’ve been miserable since the accident and it wasn’t only because my husband lay critically ill here. The thought that Deji was emotionally or physically involved with someone else was such a torment. I hope he never finds out that he had lost my trust at any time.”
When Timi said that, Lola replied, “Don’t beat yourself up too much. There were things about the accident that most likely didn’t add up for you and because it’s only human to want answers, you had arrived at the most probable one. I would have thought the same if I were in your shoes.”
By the time Lola was ready to leave, Deji was still asleep so she promised to come back the next day after work.
Just as the doctors had promised, Deji woke up sometime that afternoon. He was up for only a little while but that had been enough for Timi who had been elated. She quickly called his mother to give her the good news. The accident had emphasized how unpredictable life really was and Timi realized that there was no point in holding grudges.
She made up her mind to become more accommodating towards her mother-in-law. She didn’t care how long it took but she was determined that they would be friends someday. Already, a bond had developed between them in the two days since the accident. This had been brought about by a realization that they could lose a man they both loved very much. Timi fervently hoped that bond would get stronger, even when Deji was fully recovered.
The feeding tube that had been inserted in Deji’s throat was removed that evening and Timi fed her husband as much chicken broth as he could handle. She knew it was going to be a long journey but she was determined to make the best at the second chance her family had been given.
Timi was telling Deji a funny story about the kids when Lola returned the next day. Lola looked very pleased to see Deji up and he smiled gently to her as he said, “Hi.” His speech was a little bit slurred. The doctors said that only the passage of time would tell if it would get better.
“How are you?” Lola asked.
“Grateful,” he replied.
At that, Timi laughed. She understood exactly what Deji meant.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” he said softly. “If I hadn’t convinced her to go to Abuja, she would have still been alive.”
“We don’t know that. Maybe, it was her time to go,” Lola replied. “From what I heard, the accident was not your fault in at all. So, please, don’t feel guilty about her passing. It is a sad time for me but I have learnt that it is important to live every moment right because death might come calling any time. Nana was the victim now but it could have been anybody else, really.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Deji said, very slowly and in low tones. “I’ve been so sober since I regained consciousness yesterday. It’s a feeling that I hope never fades. It’s very easy to get carried away with the act of living, to the point that a lot of things are taken for granted. It’s also so easy to make avoidable mistakes. I hope I never forget how easily I could have lost everything that I had.”
Slowly, he laid his left hand on Timi’s right hand and gave it a little squeeze.
Lola stayed for a while with the couple before she told them she had to leave.
“Thanks for coming, Lola.” Timi said, standing to hug Deji’s colleague. Whispering in Lola’s ears, she said, “I really appreciate all you’ve done.”
Walking to her car, Lola had tears in her eyes. She understood that she and Deji had been saying good bye to each other in that hospital room.
Deji was a very good-looking man and Lola had suddenly become physically attracted to him. They had worked together for two years so while she hadn’t understood her new feelings for him, she hadn’t wanted to ignore them.
Lola had started paying Deji compliments all the time and when she realized that he was flattered by them, she had intensified her efforts. It wasn’t long before he started reciprocating that attention. Soon, they had started flirting with each other, and had sent countless suggestive messages to each other on their phones. That had gone on for over two months. However, they had been careful not to let anyone in their office know that they were more than colleagues.
They had not yet been physically intimate but from all the signs, they had been headed there. A casual touch here and there, seemingly innocent hugs that seemed to linger, a bold pat on his bottom when no one was looking and smiles that seemed full of secrets suggested that it was only a matter of time before their relationship spiraled out of control into a full-blown affair.
One of Lola’s closest friends, Ibinabo, had got married in Port Harcourt on Saturday. So, Lola had finally taken the bull by the horn and invited Deji to be her date at the wedding. She had wanted to take their relationship to the next level of intimacy but it had been difficult getting him to agree to her suggestion of a weekend get-away. However, on Thursday, his defenses had come down and he had finally agreed to go to Port Harcourt with Lola. He had refused to be her date, however.
“I can’t disrespect my wife in that manner,” Deji had said. “Someone could see us together.” He had planned to attend Wari’s party instead.
Lola had been quick to agree because she hadn’t wanted to give him an excuse to renege on their agreement. That’s alright for now, she had thought. By the time I have you all to myself, you won’t be thinking about that wife of yours. That’s for sure.
Deji and Lola had made hotel reservations together, making sure to take rooms that were adjacent to each other. They had planned to drive to the airport together but Nana had overheard Deji telling Adam that he was going to the airport the next day and had asked him for a ride. Nana had been oblivious to the flirtations between Lola and Deji and because Deji had wanted it to remain that way, there had been a change in the plans he had made with Lola.
“She’s my close friend so she’s bound to find out about us, one of these days,” Lola had protested, in a whisper. “Why can’t it be now?”
“You seem to have forgotten that I’m a married man and that both of us work in the same office,” Deji had countered, frowning. “Some affairs are not meant to be flaunted. I can’t afford to have my life become the subject of rumours.” Getting up from the chair opposite her, he had walked away from her desk. That had been the end of the matter.
When she had not seen Deji at the airport, Lola had called him. She had been more than a little upset that his phone had been switched off. She had also called Nana several times but none of the calls had been picked. In a fit of annoyance, Lola had boarded the flight to Port Harcourt.
Deji’s just a chicken, she had thought, while waiting for the plane to take off. Why couldn’t he be man enough to tell me that he had changed his mind? Who does he think he is, to treat me so disrespectfully?
Ibinabo had a hen party that night and it had been fun for Lola as she had danced a lot. It wasn’t till she got back to her hotel room, after the party, that she had seen several messages on her phone from a few of their colleagues. Lola had been in a daze when she realized that Nana was dead while Deji was critically ill in the hospital. She had been too numb to cry.
The next day, Lola hadn’t been herself at the wedding, as she kept thinking, I could have been the one lying on a cold slab now. I could have been the one critically ill in the hospital.
On the flight back to Lagos, she already knew what she had to do. She wasn’t going to waste this second chance she had been given. As she drove off now, she was glad that Deji felt the same way. She really liked him and hoped that he’ll eventually be fine. But, she wasn’t going to waste time chasing after another woman’s man. Holding the steering wheel steady with her left hand, she wiped her eyes with her right hand.
Maybe, I’ll give Jinadu a chance, after all. He seems like a great guy and he’s been unrelenting in his pursuit of me. He’s no Deji but he doesn’t look bad, either. The bobo get raps too. Let’s see if he’s as romantic as he sounds. That would be weird, though. All this coded office romance, sha.
Six months later, Deji and Timi held hands as they walked along the beach. They had gone to a resort in Badagry for the weekend while his mother had come over to their home to take care of the children. His broken bones had healed with no complications and apart from a few scars, he had no other visible signs of the accident. His speech had also gone back to normal. Their life had assumed normalcy too but they had not gone back to the way they had been.
They knew that most people didn’t get another shot at life so they were determined to make the most of their second chance.